Each drill helps you practice a particular skill.
Some people love drills, others hate them.
I love them. But something that all retrieving drills have in common is a particular type of risk
So I need to give you some information about this, that I can link to where necessary, from the exercises on this website.
The spice of life
Drills are by nature repetitive.
Real life on the other hand, is brimful of variety.
Animals have evolved to appreciate and benefit from, the infinite variety around us. We find variety highly reinforcing and attractive. So do our dogs
Monotony on the other hand is – well – monotonous.
So if drills are monotonous and dogs find variety reinforcing, you can see that we have a problem in the making
Drills can be damaging
[wp_ad_camp_1]The truth is that almost all drills, or exercises, have the potential to do damage and to inhibit behaviours that we don’t want to be inhibited.
So we need to use them with care and caution.
This is especially the case when it comes to retrieving.
The Three Ds of Drilling
With retrieving drills, I find it helpful to remember the 3 Ds of drilling.
When your dog is out and about on a shoot day, no two retrieves are ever exactly the same. Not so with drills, where we are deliberately repeating and re-running exercises to get concepts firmly fixed in our dogs’ brains.
Activities which are monotonous, even if they are fun initially, soon lose their sparkle. And so it is with drills.
Keep the reservoir topped up
Every dog has a limited ‘reservoir’ of retrieving desire. And every drill saps a little of that desire away.
Even the most passionate retriever on earth has a limit to his passion for fetching a dummy over and over again.
The limit may be a hundred times greater than the limit of other dogs, but it is there just the same.
Your job is to make sure your dog never reaches that limit, that his reservoir of desire is permanently topped up.
Other influences on desire
Drills are not the only thing which influence desire to retrieve.
Your dog’s state of health is obviously important, an unwell dog is not going to perform at his best. But the most often overlooked influence is exercise.
Exercise is an important factor in retrieve desire, because exercise in sufficient quantities, reduces desire.
It is also a factor over which you have control.
Bust a gut!
You need to bring a dog to each retrieving drill in an “I’ll bust a gut to get that dummy” frame of mind. This is probably not going to happen if your partner just took him on a five mile run.
If your dog is not a particularly passionate retriever then a period of confinement indoors or in the vehicle, before running your drills, may improve his enthusiasm.
And you may like to consider reducing his daily exercise quota for a few days whilst you concentrate on a specific exercise.
Retrieving drills should come before exercise, not after, with one proviso:
The warm up
A retrieve is a sprint! Both out and back. Or it should be.
And sprinting with cold muscles is asking for injury.
Always give your dog a warm up before asking him to sprint. This doesn’t mean allowing him to gallop around the field, draining all that drive and desire out of his system.
But it does mean you need to ensure he has a brisk 5 minute heel walk followed by a few minutes jogging at heel if at all possible, to warm up those muscles, just before you start running your drills.
Remember, drills drain desire. Err on the side of caution, and stop whilst your dog is having fun.
There is always another day.
For information on building desire, click here.